Monday, July 15, 2024

Mommy “Fix-All”

May 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting From Balance©

My son Kian has always been good at conjuring up plans… but bringing them to life is another matter entirely.  The pieces wouldn’t fit, the parts would fall off, or the wheels would not turn.  His grand visions just needed his building expertise to catch up a little more….  and his ensuing frustration would start to leak out sideways, screaming like steam from a kettle.  It was impossible for me to ignore:  his loud keening was a veritable curse to the gods.  It penetrated me.  I could feel his chafing frustration in my heart, seeping in like hot oil.  It would sit and simmer then, until something would finally snap.  There was no turning back!   I would lose all control, and spring  into “Fix It Mode!”

“Here, Kian — some tape!  A staple!  Glue!!  A new one!” A different one!”

I would reel off the remedies like so many spinning plates, but nothing worked.  The more I tried to fix it for him, the louder and more insistent his crying would become. 

My antics as “Mommy fix it” lasted for 4 and a half years, until one day (just as my arms were ready to fall off from all of that plate spinning) I realized that what Kian wanted was something I could not give him: an older, more capable body.  Fingers that could manipulate deftly, arms strong enough to move the mountains in his imagination, and legs that could run fast enough to carry his quick mind. 

I also realized that what I could give him was my attention.  Maybe his crying was  a request to be seen, and heard.  I learned to stop, and rather than diving in to try to fix it, I would simply reflect what It appeared he was feeling.  

“Kian, you sound frustrated.  It looks like you are having a hard time taping that piece of cardboard to your car.”

“YEAAAACHHH!”  The end note was high enough to shatter glass.

“I wonder what you could do to make your plan happen?  Is there anything I can do to help?”


I realized that the reason why I had the overwhelming compulsion to dive in and fix his frustration is because Kian is his mother’s son.  I, too, am have some perfectionist tendencies… the same tendencies that would trigger that keening in Kian.  Maybe I just needed to take a step back and work on my own feelings about this….  Another learning opportunity.  Great (just what I was hoping for!)

Then one day, at a friend’s birthday party, Kian was playing with a whistle he had just received.  I watched him toot the whistle joyfully when suddenly, it dropped right down the sewer — as though someone had snatched it from his mouth, his lips still pursed for another toot.  One minute he was blowing through it happily, and the next, it had popped right out of his hands and dropped down into that black hole in the street. 

Kian looked completely stunned, and then he started to cry long, choking sobs of desolation.  It was as though his joy had been snatched right out of his hands by something unseen and beyond his control.  I wondered whether life in his still developing body often felt like that.

As I listened to his pained sobbing, I had to fight the urge to make it better.  I resisted the urge to offer suggestions.  Instead, I let him cry, and I listened, and let him be seen and heard.  Once in a while I reflected.  

“I’m sooo sad!!!”

 “You’re sad.” 

” I loooost it!!” 

“You lost it.  What can you do?”

He cried for 5 minutes more. Each of those minutes lasted an hour.  I sat by, saying nothing.  I was just “there.” I noticed his emotions, and resisted the incredible urge to dive in and smooth down ruffled feathers;  kiss Kian and make everything better.  A lot went on in those 5 minutes, but it was all in my head, and in Kian’s body.   

Finally Kian seemed to reach down inside himself and pull something out.  He sat up straighter, and a glimmer of hope flashed through the tears.  He choked out, gasping through his sobs, “Hey, I know!  They have more whistles.” 

“Really?  Are you sure?” I was a little skeptical — I was afraid it might have been Kian’s magical thinking that conjured up that bag of whistles, ready for the picking.

“Yes!  I saw them”  Kian was still crying, and it was hard to understand him, between the choking sobs. ” I can go back and ask them for another!” 

“Ok Kian.  Let’s try.”  We hopped out of the car and walked back toward the park.

When we reached the entrance, the last of the party goers were just leaving.  His friend’s mother was one of them, and she was carrying a bag.  Kian walked right over: “Geri, do you have any more whistles?   Mine went down the sewer.” 

“Well Yes, Kian. We do have more whistles.  Here you go!”  She reached into her bag and pulled out a replacement whistle for him.  A satisfied calm swept over Kian’s face, as he whistled his way all the way back to our car.  Kian was self-contained in his joy, and his  newfound power was in every bouncy step.

Kian grew a lot that day.  He stepped right into his power.  And I learned a little more about how to step back at just the right time.  Score one for mommy!

 Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA
A Mindful program for the ‘Whole Child,’ inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Reggio Emilia, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.


2 Responses to “Mommy “Fix-All””
  1. kendra says:

    Wow! What a liberating message- we(as parents) aren’t truly helping our kids by trying to fix everything. I’ll practice integrating that one for sure- thanks for sharing!

  2. Jodee Capo says:

    Hi Linda,
    I am impressed in so many ways by this article you wrote. First your capabilities in writing and how I was captivated by the way you expressed this situation with Kian. Also this is such a great lesson for me to hear again as I have worked on this for so long with my children and they are in their twenties. It feels I am just recently pulling completely out of the “mommy fix it mode”!( Never too late!) It has taught me a lot and helped them step into their power sooooo much more!
    Thank you for sending this to me!

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